- A new survey conducted by the Association for Energy Services Professionals finds customer participation in utility energy management programs is still fairly low — but is growing by double-digits in some service territories.
- The study found that only 31% of the consumers had participated in a utility-run energy management program. Participation rates ranged widely, from 1% to 80%, with an average participation of 17%.
- The survey, conducted in partnership with Essense Partners, is one of four that will be released this year. Other topics to be examined include: energy efficiency jobs, distributed energy resources, and the Internet of Things.
Demand management strategies are growing in importance as utilities manage an increasingly-complex grid, but so far, customer participation in the underlying programs remains relatively small.
AESP and Essense surveyed more than 2,700 consumers and 164 professionals who work in utility programs, finding that just 31% of consumers had participated in an energy management program. But with participation rates rising, it may mean utilities have a lot of room to grow the resource.
The survey found that over the last two years, 32% of energy efficiency professionals reported that program participation rates had grown from 3% to 10 percent. And 21% reported that participation rates had grown by more than 10%.
"Those trends are expected to continue over the next two years," the firms said.
"Programs are growing," AESP COO Suzanne Jones said in a statement. "But utilities will have to do more to demonstrate the value proposition for consumers, communicate better and provide clear evidence, through digital interfaces, that the programs are effective and save them money and energy."
The survey also revealed a disparity between utility and consumer perspectives: Only 18% of utility workers said that energy efficiency was "very important" to consumers. However, 58% of consumers identified energy efficiency as "very important."
As utilities look to grow their programs, they will need to appeal to areas where consumers see value. The AESP survey showed the top factors generating growth in program participation were: improved value and incentives; improved communications between consumers and utilities; and improved digital interfaces, tools and energy data.
The survey also revealed that older customers are more likely to participate in programs. "Younger people may be purchasing homes later, but the industry need to reach out and to communicate better with millennials," Jones said.